Staunton, April 8 – In a sweeping display of arrogance reflecting the support Ramzan Kadyrov has in the Kremlin, Grozny officials say they have gone ahead and demarcated a disputed part of the border between Chechnya and Daghestan unilaterally and to Chechnya’s benefit because they were tired of waiting for a response from Makhachkala.
This Chechen action is even more troubling than the agreement Kadyrov made with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov last September 26 that has sparked protests in Ingushetia since that time, protests that have forced Moscow to introduce massive forces and called into question Russian control of that republic.
First, unlike the legal fiction which the Russian Constitutional Court used to justify Kadyrov’s grab of 26,000 hectares of Ingush land, one that held that there was no established border between the two Vainakh republics, the Chechen-Daghestan border had been registered in the past officially and only required more careful delimitation.
Second, Moscow had called for bilateral talks between neighboring republics in the region last fall to achieve that more precise demarcation of the border in order to prevent conflicts. By flouting that directive and simply taking land without an agreement, Grozny at the very least has put in place a new source of tension in the region.
And third, Kadyrov’s insistence the talks be held in secret sparked such dissent in Daghestan that Makhachkala had to promise greater transparency and include public representatives in the talks. The Daghestani side named such people to the talks but now the Chechen action has shown that for Grozny, the public talks were a smokescreen for a land grab.
Because Kadyrov still enjoys Putin’s unqualified support, because Daghestan, the most ethnically divided republic in Russia, is unlikely to come together to protest in the way the Ingush have, and because everyone can see Moscow’s repressive response to demonstrations in Ingusheta, Kadyrov may get away with this move.
But this unilateral action may prove Pyrrhic both for him and for Moscow, for him because it will reduce the chances that any leader in the North Caucasus will be willing to cooperate with Kadyrov in the future and for Moscow because it shows that the center may consider Chechens second class citizens but that it clearly views them as third class or worse.
The Kavkaz-Uzel news agency provides a detailed discussion of the Chechen action (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/334016/), one likely to echo and then backfire in the region as a whole and perhaps even beyond the North Caucasus to other parts of the Russian Federation.
Officials in the Presidential Administration and Parliament of Chechnya say that they went ahead on March 16 with the registration of the border with the federal authorities as Chechnya but not Daghestan defines it because they were tired of waiting for Makhachkala of coming up with an official response.
The bi-national commission on the demarcation of the border between Daghestan and Chechnya had identified the land in question (in Kizlyar district) as “one of the disputed sections” whose status was to be defined earlier. But the Chechen side, according to Daghestani activist Mikail Mikailov said it was “tired” of waiting for Makhachkala to decide.
According to the news agency, Shamil Khadulayev, a member of the Chechen commission, confirmed this and said that Grozny simply acted on its own because it “needed to,” without explain why that is the case. As a result, Chechnya has taken “approximately 18 hectares of the neighboring republic” into its territory.
Chechnya had offered some land in exchange in February (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/331359/